This film poignantly stands out as one of 2016's best films.
Perhaps one of the most hauntingly real and brutally honest depictions of the American midwest since Harmony Korine’s disturbing early work, it comes as a surprise that American Honey is, in fact, one of the best British films of 2016. Andrea Arnold, director of the brilliantly raw Fish Tank and Red Road, proves once again to be one of British cinema’s best contemporary independent filmmakers, trading victims of the British council estate for the outcasts of the American dream.
Following a group of young people brought together by a shared desire to escape their oppressive lives in the forgotten poverous areas of the US, American Honey feels truthful in its approach and compelling at its heart. We shadow Star, played effortlessly by ‘non-actor’ Sasha Lane who Arnold met by a chance encounter with no previous acting experience. She is instantly appealing, running from her relationship which holds her captive through the guilt of her forced responsibilities.
Arnold’s camera acts as an extra member of the group, taking the empty seat on their tour bus and dwelling on irrelevant details in an attempt to heighten the overwhelming realism. Improvised brilliantly throughout and playing on the idiosyncrasies of the wild world our characters inhabit, American Honey’s magic is also its problem. For all of the film’s visceral details and intended lack of structure, there is a sense (as in reality) of the mundane which due to the film’s astounding length can prove a task for even the most experienced cinephile.
If you commit to its length and allow it to, American Honey is the kind of film which can truly captivate and immerse. As sticky as the titular substance, it is hard to brush off and irresistibly sweet. Arnold’s film is raw, beautiful and violently effecting. This is a honey which everyone should taste.
American Honey (2016), directed by Andrea Arnold, is released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD by Universal Pictures. Certificate 15.